The Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan – William Dalrymple

The second TJBR birthday hardback polished off during our ten days at Corrie Craggie this May, The Return of a King is William Dalrymple’s account of Britain’s first Afghan War, and results from his research using Afghan poems and biographies as well as British and Russian records from this part of their Great Game.

A big book, but a quick read.

Publisher page: The Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan – William Dalrymple

The Age of Kali: Indian Travels and Encounters – William Dalrymple

In The Age of Kali William Dalrymple writes of his encounters – chance meetings and hard won interviews – and his observations of people, places and events across the length and breadth of India and Pakistan – from the Imran Khan in Peshawar to the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka – at the close of the 20th century. There are insights into history, religions and politics. A fascinating set of articles link: The Age of Kali – William Dalrymple

In Xanadu: A Quest – William Dalrymple

In Xanadu turned out to be an excellent choice as my sole LHR departure lounge purchase. Having finished In the Company of Cheerful Ladies in Peshawar, I moved on to William Dalrymple’s account of his journey from Cambridge to China, accompanied by the no nonsense Laura as far as Lahore, and subsequently by ex-girlfriend Louisa.

Following as far as possible in the footsteps of Marco Polo, William and his ladies travelled from Cyprus to Israel to Syria to Turkey to Iran to Pakistan and thence across China to Beijing. Fascinating, with history and architecture interwoven with pen portraits of people they meet en route – and interesting to see/hear the young William Dalrymple. My undergraduate summer holiday activities were nowhere near so adventurous.

Buy it: Amazon link

From the Holy Mountain: A Journey in the Shadow of Byzantium – William Dalrymple

I thoroughly enjoyed this account of the various Christian communities that live(d) in the Middle East. It’s fascinating to learn how many of the regions we think of as muslim have older Christian cultures (plural), and for how long these societies have lived together in the Middle East. William Dalrymple does not shy away from looking at why many of the Christian cultures are slowly but surely disappearing, but neither does he lay blame in an indiscriminate fashion as he travels around the countries that form the eastern and southern borders of the Mediterranean Sea.

A bit strange reading it on a small island in the middle of the South Atlantic.

Buy it: Amazon link

City of Djinns – William Dalrymple

I only managed to read this at the end of the Exodus trip from Delhi to Kathmandu, as I borrowed it from the better prepared Kirsty for the final few days and the journey home. In the end, it lasted well into the first week of my new job, and provided a fascinating read. I’m glad I’ve got another WD to hand; City of Djinns was well written and very educational, without being at all heavy.

My only wish is that I’d read it before getting to Delhi as the book provides historical and modern-day contexts for all the places we visited, and the city and its inhabitants as City of Djinns is part diary, part travelolgue, part historical synopsis drawn from William Dalrymple’s time in Delhi.

Buy it: Amazon link